A federal bioproducts development program will pour $15 million into three research streams to add value to cereal straw, improve canola yields for biodiesel and further probe pulse crops’ health benefits.
At separate events Thursday at London, Ont., Saskatoon and Edmonton, federal MPs announced funding for three separate groups of projects through the government’s Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP).
The largest share of the funds, $8.7 million, is booked for the Agricultural Biorefinery Innovation Network (ABIN), led by the University of Western Ontario.
ABIN will connect university researchers, government experts and the private sector on the development of “genetically improved” varieties of cereals from which they hope to add value for the straw as well as the grain.
ABIN’s goal, the government said, is to “find more efficient ways of collecting the straw and develop new technologies to extract a range of valuable material.”
The network’s project, it’s hoped, “will improve cereal varieties and find the best ways to convert the waste that is left over from harvesting into energy, biofuels and green chemicals. That way the farmer is using the whole plant, and not just the grain.”
Another $5.3 million will go to the Pulse Research Network (PURENet) for research that focuses on developing new products from pulses, creating “more sustainable and environmentally-friendly” crops, and developing “healthier” pulses for use in the functional food and nutraceuticals industries.
PURENet’s work is to involve development of new products from pulse starch, protein, and seed hull applications, such as slowly digestible starch, biodegradable bioplastics, bioethanol and industrial absorbents.
As well, the network will explore crop management strategies to maximize pulse crops’ nitrogen-fixing capabilities and put numbers to the crops’ environmental impacts and abilities greenhouse gases.
Also, ABIP will put up $1 million for the Sustainable Cropping System Platforms for Biodiesel Feedstock Quantity and Quality (SBQQ) research network, which will focus on the “most effective ways to increase canola production” through a series of experiments across the major soil zones of Western Canada.
The SBQQ network, led by the Alberta Canola Producers’ Commission, will focus its work on benefits such as increased canola demand and supplies, new biodiesel production facilities, consistent supplies of biodiesel for consumers, and improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Other participants in ABIN include Agri-Therm, Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Perth Community Futures Development Co., Ryerson University, the Saskatchewan Research Council, StormFisher and the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Guelph, Manitoba, Northern British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Sherbrooke and Toronto.
PURENet, led by Pulse Canada and managed by Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, will include scientists and experts from the Universities of Toronto, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta as well as the Canadian International Grains Institute, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Saskatchewan Research Council.
Other SBQQ network participants, meanwhile, include the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan, the Alberta Biodiesel Association, Olds College and the Canola Council of Canada.
Funding from the federal government’s ABIP is meant to back research networks that include universities, industry and government, to further streamline development and commercialization of bioproducts and bioprocesses.